This is the third book in the series and it is my favorite. The Siren’s Dream casts the hero of The Siren’s Touch, Dmitri Lisko, as the villain. This book’s ghost, a mara named Katya, is determined to kill Lisko to avenge her dead lover and to gain enough fulfillment to pass to whatever is next. While the first two books in the series were satisfactory, Dream was satisfying in a whole different way.
The hero, Nikolai, is complex with multiple motivations- his attraction to Katya being only one of many things that he wrestles with internally. Katya’s ghostly self-discovery is also a coming into her own in a way that she was denied in life. Their characterization is consistent, along with that of Nikolai’s niece who also plays a featured role in the book.
I enjoyed that the Ukraine of the book is clearly the modern Ukraine, complete with frustrated and frustrating political realities, fears, and intrigues. Belldene also folded intriguing and compelling details of daily life- like television shows, access to American media, chicken soup in the Eastern European style (with pickles-mmm!), the smell and effect of a bombed office building, and the random scenery of a traffic signal. I found that these details made this book heavier on the normal aspect of paranormal, a genre that I don’t normally love. Thus, I was able to remain present in this novel in a way that I wasn’t for the previous two.
Additionally, the romantic tension between Nikolai and Katya actually came to its peak in their comprehension of different end goals. It wasn’t a failed-to-happen conversation or faux hurt feelings, but a realization that they were at serious odds with each other. That tension affected her literal forever and his ethics, which are the center of his world. This kind of tension is much appreciated in the romance genre, which can sometimes feel like the same story over and over.
There were very few missed copy edits, but I did struggle with the author’s repeated use of the word “chert” in Nikolai’s vocabulary. Initially, I read the word and subbed in “shit”, which began to frustrate me because there was a section where I saw it on nearly every consecutive screen shot of the ebook. I looked up the meaning, which seemed akin to “devil” or “damnation”. That made it easier to read. I’m not squeamish about language, but a “shit” on every page seemed unimaginative and unlike this author. When I imagined Nikolai having a realization and saying, “Oh, hell”- then it seemed to fit the character and the circumstances better.
On the whole, I highly recommend this book, which I received in Advanced Reader Copy from NetGalley.
I suggest pre-ordering. Your future self will thank your present (then past) self! Trust me.